Monday, August 29, 2011

Craig resident’s trophy bear kill erupts into statewide controversy

From the Craig Daily Post

Archive for Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Curious Case of Richard Kendall

August 28, 2011
The story that started it all: On Dec. 4, 2010, the Saturday Morning Press published the story of Richard Kendall, who tracked a bear into a cave and killed it. Reaction to the story spread throughout the country, with some condemning Kendall’s actions. Kendall insists he did nothing wrong.
It was a shot that reverberated around the state and beyond.
In November 2010, Craig resident Richard Kendall crawled to the mouth of a dark cave with a .45-70 caliber lever-action rifle.

Fair chase?

Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, says Kendall’s actions were legal at the time.
“It’s important to note, Mr. Kendall did not commit a violation in what he did,” Hampton says. “There was an issue regarding the use of a flashlight, for which he was cited, and (Kendall) paid the fine.”
Rather, the question at the crux of the Kendall controversy is whether it was ethical. “It comes down to the element of fair chase,” Hampton says.
But the question today is as relevant as it was then: was it OK to pull the trigger?
Read More


  1. This is a really interesting case, and it feels like it's being driven by a lot of emotion.

    On the one hand, the bear was cornered, which evokes a visceral response (no pun intended). I'd love to hunt bear, but I don't think I have the personal fortitude to shoot a bear that's treed or in a cave - it's just not my style. Other people defend the practice, but I have no personal experience with which to evaluate it, so I have not taken a position on it.

    On the other hand, Richard Kendall clearly did a lot of work to track this bear, so he doesn't fall neatly into that unfair-chase image of a lazy hunter. And what he did was legal.

    Should it be illegal? I think I'd need to know more to reach my own conclusion. If all bear hunters commonly did what Kendall did, would it be such a successful tactic that bear populations would be threatened? That seems like the key to me - conservation-based rule-making.

  2. I found it interesting that Kendall defended shooting the bear because it was legal. To me the standards set by the law are usually the lowest common denominator for behavior that is acceptable by the public. Being legal is very important, but it is not the only measure that needs to be evaluated before taking action.
    I agree with Holly this is an interesting case. I suspect we will have some discussion about it at the Hunting Think Tank next week. I'll let everyone know what we come up with on how to think thru it and make a decision you can stand behind.

  3. Sure wish I could go to the think tank!

    I understand his "it was legal" defense; I think most people don't expect to become national news for doing something that's entirely legal.

    But I understand having higher standards than just following the law - I have several, including not hunting planted birds, and hunting only for meat.

    The big question is when those should become more than personal choice. I know I'd be in for a beating, figuratively speaking, if I suggested that we no longer allowed planted-bird hunts.

  4. Gotta say I can see where the ruckus comes from (folks who don't have a clue about hunting), but I don't see anything especially wrong with what Kendall did. He applied woodsmanship, tracked an animal to its lair, and killed it cleanly. If I trailed a buck to its bed and killed it while it slept, would I be a "bad person"?

    Beyond that, if it's legal to hunt bear or lions with hounds, then it's pretty hypocritical of the State to make it illegal to track and kill an animal in a cave. This is a clear example of someone trying to make a politically correct statement without really considering the implications to other aspects of the hunt.

  5. I've been thinking this through, using the elements I consider essential for an ethical hunt
    1. Is it safe - this might be an issue, was this a rock cave? (Even if it was risky I don't think it should be illegal, but shooting at close range with a rock all around you is something you should not do.
    2. Legal - The DOW ruled the use of the flash light was not legal, but the taking of the bear was. In many states like VT the use of a light to spot, locate or take most game is illegal and carries major fines and revocations.
    3 Clean kill - Apparently this was a quick kill
    4. Full utilization - the bear was taken out and presumably fully used
    5. Fair Chase - this seems to be the most problematic area. Orion defines a fair chase hunt as "Fundamental to ethical hunting is the idea of fair chase. This concept addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken." [p.57 "Beyond Fair Chase"] In my opinion this hunt up to entering the den was fair chase. Coming back the next day changes the situation as the use of a light. At that point it seems to me that the animal stands very little chance of escape. If your reason for hunting is a challenging hunt (as most are for me) - I would back off and not shoot. If the goal is hide and meat or bragging rights/trophy you probably would shoot. All of this involves personnel choice (excepting the use of the light). Now the question is should it be illegal? CO has outlawed hounding of bear but allows it for mountain lion. Many states outlaw shooting swimming deer, all outlaw use of lights. My take is the law is used to define the lowest level of behavior that society will tolerate. Clearly this is different in different states and regions. It should be respected but the argument that it is OK to do because it is not illegal doesn't cut it with me.

  6. kind of agree with Eric on point 5: it is an awful lot like shooting turkeys off the roost. And yet waiting for turkeys' first fly down and sluicing them as their feet touch the ground seems like quibbling over the timing of the kill. Should the bear have been allowed to leave the den, with the hunter waiting outside the den ready to pop him in the face like a woodchuck peering out of his hole?

    Much of this smells of aesthetic preferences again, Eric. I have to admit I don't see huge problems ethically--the bear presumably died quickly. But it just smells bad . . . aesthetically.

  7. and on the subject of the lights . . . "Many states outlaw shooting swimming deer, all outlaw use of lights." That's fine, but you're comparing bear hunting to deer hunting. If we compare bear hunting to coyote hunting, many states allow the use of lights. Nothing inherently wrong with the use of lights as far as I can tell. Illegal? Yes. But not immoral.

  8. Sort of a side note:

    I haven't been following this, but exactly how was the light used? Was there enough light in the cave to shoot without a light? I know CO, like many states, is pretty serious about the use of lights for taking big game (as opposed to varmints or depredation), but it sounds like the citation Kendall received was fairly nominal.

    Beyond that, I still think this case is way too much ado about nothing.

  9. I agree with Phillip, and I suggest folks tread carefully around this one. In the east, the two main wildlife management techniques for managing burgeoning bear populations and human conflicts is hounding and baiting. Other methods are not effective here. Foot-trapping near bait could also be effective - see where this is going?

    I for one have never been able to track a bear to its den without the use of radiotelemtry for a biological study. It takes a lot of guts (we'll call it that) to do what Kendall did. If illumination was illegal but necessary to see the bear, he should have waited for the bear to come back out - maybe it does and maybe it doesn't while you are there - that was his only error.

    This is not that big a deal, except the press ate up a message about killing a resting bear. This goes back to Goldilocks and general public psyche about bears (bet it wouldn't have been an issue for a wolf or coyote). Managing season timing makes more sense to me than managing exactly where a bear can be harvested. What if he was lying in a beech-nest, sleeping off a belly full of nuts? Or taken by foot-hold cable-trap? Or treed by hounds? Or shot over bait? All legal and valid bear harvest and management techniques in some states - states that need those methods to protect bears and humans from each other.

  10. The issue stinks because the kill is justified with a self defense argument. My litmus test for bear hunting is whether the animal experiences harassment. Hounding doesn't pass the test.

  11. One of the fundamental tenants of hunting is a clean, fast kill, and do your best to minimize any pain and suffering. However, for predators experience and studies have shown that long inefficient (as far as number of animals kills vs being chased/spooked...) are best for reducing conflicts with humans. Thus you can have a higher population of animals like bears where you allow hounding than you will where there is no hunting or only very short seasons. In Vermont we have a high bear population with low problems compared to CO which outlawed spring hunts and hounding. Allowing some harassment for more and wilder bears with fewer being killed as pests seems like a good trade off to me.

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